|Wells Gray for Birdwatchers,
Wildlife Viewing, and Wild Flora
All areas of Wells Gray seem to get a good selection of smaller
native species... Varied Thrushes, Grossbeaks, Swallows, etc. As
well as larger birds like Spruce Grouse and Ruffed Grouse.
Specific areas get more impressive birds, here's few locations and
species of note:
Osprey: at least 4 nesting pairs on Clearwater and Azure Lakes
every year. Murtle Lake has over a dozen nesting pairs.
Bald Eagles: seen in the fall on the Clearwater and North
Thompson Rivers during the Salmon run. nesting pairs on Murtle
Herons and Cranes: often sighted at the Ray Farm, in the river
channel between Clearwater and Azure lakes, and in Murtle
Owls: Greys, Great Horned, and Screech owls have all been
spotted or heard, a very wild sight or sound to experience! mostly
found in the old growth areas of the park.
Rare Waterfowl: Harlequin Ducks and Wood Ducks make
nesting season appearances on Murtle Lake and in the Azure
Loons, Grebes, and Mergansers are common on all park lakes,
especially Murtle. What do you call a flock of Loons? We don't
know either, but you can see groups upwards of 70 birds floating
together on Murtle Lake, apparently very rare behavior for this
bird often only seen in pairs.
Hummingbirds: Rufous and Calliope species can be found.
Good places to spot them are around Helmcken Falls Lodge, and
at the Ray Farm.
Bears: Bears are everywhere! Keep your eyes open for Black
Bears from dawn to dusk in every part of the park, and along local
roads in the North Thompson Valley. I can honestly say that I have
seen bears in every part of Wells Gray, from the high alpine to the
middle of lakes...so, be Bear Aware.
Our Black Bears are not all black! They range in colour from
blonde, to cinnamon, to chocolate brown, and several shades of
black. Some look almost dark blue in the right light.
Grizzly Bears are rare and much harder to encounter. Alpine
meadows are the most common area to see one, like the Trophy,
Battle, and Phillips Lake areas. Even then sightings are rare. A recent
count placed the Grizzly population in Wells Gray at well over 100
Deer: Deer are also common throughout the park, mostly Mule
Deer (big ears), with a few Whitetail Deer now moving into the area.
Moose: Moose are common in the park, but hard to spot. They
are a very reclusive animal compared to the deer, and to see one,
you usually have to catch them by surprise. Seeing a moose in Wells
Gray is a lucky experience, treasure it if you do.
Caribou and Mountain Goats: Both are found in Wells
Gray, but both are very rare sights. Goat populations exist on the
mountain tops on both sides of Azure Lake, and in select areas
Foxes, Wolves, and Coyotes: All three are common to the
park. Foxes are seen frequently along roadways and come in colours
from red to black, plus many shades in between.
Coyotes are generally grey and are comparable in size to a medium
dog, like a Springer Spaniel. Coyotes hunt mice and Ground
Squirrels, often in the farmers fields near the park.
Wolves are common in the park, but are more often heard howling at
night. Several resident packs live around Murtle, Clearwater and
Azure Lakes, and on the highlands in between the three. I've seen
well over 2 dozen wolves in 20 years working here.
Cougars and Lynx: Both cats reside in the park, but are very
rare sights, consider yourself lucky if you see either.
Beaver, Otters, and Muskrats: All three reside in Wells
Gray and area. Several beaver ponds and lodges can be seen along
the North Thompson River, in Shadow Lake, Alice Lake, and the
Otters can occasionally be seen playing on the big lakes and rivers.
Muskrats can be found almost anywhere in smaller lakes. Muskrat
houses, piles of matted grass, are common in Murtle Lagoon.
Smaller Mammals: Snowshoe Hares, Pine Marten, Fisher, Mink,
Ground Squirrels, Pack Rats, Skunks,Porcupines, various mice, and
voles all inhabit Wells Gray and Area. keep your dog on a leash for
its own safety .
Wells Gray is a botanist's heaven. Entire books can and have been
written on the botanical life of Wells Gray, so I won't go into huge detail
There are the Trophy and Battle Mountain alpine meadows, which
flower in two waves between late June and August.
The sides of the roads throughout the region have some form of
wildflower in bloom from June until August.
You have marshlands like Placid Lake, Murtle Lake and the Ray Farm
which are home to both Ladyslipper (June 25th at Placid is good) and
Fairyslipper Orchids, plus dozens of other flower species and interesting
There are old growth Cedars at Spahats, Bailey's Chute, Placid Lake,
the Clearwater Lake boat launch, and Rainbow Falls, just to name a few
locations. Plus, you have every other tree species from Birch to
Hemlock to Pine to Sub-alpine Fir. Interesting tree mixes can be found
on the Placid Lake Trail (monster Cottonwoods, Spruce, and Cedars),
on the Bailey's Chute Trail, and around Ray Farm.